Georgia State Placekicker Tests Positive for COVID-19, Thinks He Got It At Beach
Michael Hayes, the placekicker and punter for Georgia State's football team, doesn't know precisely where he contracted coronavirus. But he has an idea.
The redshirt freshman says his decision to go to Myrtle Beach and Folly Beach in early June while he was home in South Carolina may have come back to haunt him.
"I assumed that I got it from one of those two places," Hayes told GPB News. "I think that probably somehow it might have come from hand to mouth contact or it could have been from being around a bunch of people, but there's really no correct answer. I don't know 100% how I got it, but I assumed it was from one of two of those places."
He said he tried to follow social distancing guidelines in the groups that he was with at both beaches, even though few other people around him did.
"We did try to keep our distance from each other as much as we could," he said. "But we didn't wear any masks or anything."
He said he never exhibited any symptoms.
Hayes said he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 16, a week after his trip to Folly Beach. He said he quarantined in his apartment in Aspen Heights, the dorms across the street from the football stadium, for seven days until he tested negative for two days in a row.
A few of his friends and his mother got tested after learning he had coronvavirus; everyone's tests came back negative, he said.
His advice to fellow students: "Just distance yourself as much as possible from people because you do not know who does and does not have it and who is carrying the virus. Wear masks when you're out and about as well. Keep your hands out of your mouth and from around your face."
Nothing like a Thursday Night Under the Lights @GSUStadium!
Panthers will open the season on Thursday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. vs. Murray State.
Hayes is the first Georgia State football player known to have tested positive for coronavirus. The athletic department declined to say whether other players contracted COVID-19.
Hayes is one of many Division I student-athletes across Georgia trying to get ready for their seasons to start this fall while the risks from the COVID-19 pandemic hang above them. Georgia State, Georgia Tech, and the University of Georgia allow athletes to participate in voluntary workouts on their campuses. Georgia Tech has said at least three of their athletes and three athletic staff members tested positive for COVID-19 on July 2, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia State associate athletic director Michael Holmes said the pandemic is affecting all aspects of operations.
"The good thing for us is not just Georgia State, but for everybody when it comes to the sports side of things, we still have time," Holmes said. "I know two months doesn't seem like that long before we kick off our first football game. Still, there are discussions every day, whether it's from a ticketing perspective, a travel perspective, or a scheduling perspective."
Hayes said despite the concerns of playing sports in Georgia with coronavirus cases rising, he and his teammates remain focused on starting their season in September. The Panthers hope to finish the season by playing in their second consecutive bowl game, which would be the first back-to-back bowl appearances in the program's history.
"We haven't really talked about if there won't be a season. I think that all of our focus is that we're going to have a season, and it's going to be played," Hayes said. "It may not be with fans at full capacity, but our motto right now is that 'we're going to have a season, and we need to be ready.'"
Panthers' head coach Shawn Elliot and the school's athletic director Charlie Cobb have been encouraging the players to stay focused on preparing to play their first game against Murray State on Sept. 3.
"We've got to be prepared for all of those different scenarios," Holmes said. "And those are the types of things that we're working through; I think the same thing can be said about all our other sports."
Hayes is confident the Panthers will start the season on time. However, he is concerned that playing games could create a perfect storm for the coronavirus to spread among his teammates.
"I just don't think there's a way to prevent it. I believe there is a way with the fans in the stadium by filling the stadium to only half its capacity, maybe," Hayes said. "But on the field, I don't know if there is a way to prevent it because you can't wear a mask on the field because it will be hard to breathe."